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beth writing 30 days without

FIC: "We'll Finish This Later" (1/1)

Title: We'll Finish This Later, 1/1
Author: maddie_amber
Rating: PG
Genre: Okay this isn’t exactly a whumper (except in retrospect), and its only sort of an angster, but maybe there is a little comfort there
Warnings: None

Author’s Notes:  This was written and originally posted in the hiatus between Atlantis Season One and Season Two and was inspired by a promotional still from Siege 3.  (Sorry I forgot where I saw it, I just remember the picture). In my version it is set after the events of Seige, Part Three.  Sheppard has already been promoted to Lt. Colonel.  This ended up being uncannily similar to the actual scene in Seige, Part three.  I guess I read the writer’s mind
Disclaimer:  The characters and setting belong to someone else.  I am just borrowing them for a while.
Beta: Thanks so much to both Kam and Jen for time taken to beta this story.

"We'll Finish This Later."

 

"We'll Finish This Later."

By, maddie_amber

Smoothing the soft fabric of the blanket covering him, his gnarled fingers quivered aimlessly over the fabric, occupied by the useless activity. He willed them to stop, curling them into half-formed fists; all his arthritic hands could manage. As a boy he had watched his grandfather doing the same thing. Grandfather had long been lost in the twilight world of old age dementia, yet they had visited him each Sunday. Not wanting to remember his grandfather as a useless husk, he would watch his hands, the only part of the old man that still seemed alive, folding, re-folding and smoothing his coverlet.

Pulling his thoughts back to the present, he studied the medical apparatus surrounding him, concentrating on the machines to center his wandering thoughts. At his side he could hear the soft bleeping of a heart monitor. An IV was inserted into the back of one wrinkled hand and the tubing extended into the pump that methodically forced fluid into his veins. He could not smell it, but his mind fabricated the odor of betadine and bedpans he had always associated with hospitals. His mental effort was interrupted by the sound of voices outside the curtain that had been drawn around his bed. Distracted, he strained to catch the words being spoken. They were talking about him. He knew that. He was not being paranoid and he definitely was not senile. If only he could hear what they were saying. Everything sounded muffled, as though his ears were filled with fluid, or plugged with cotton.

“I don’t know if Stargate travel would be wise.” That sounded like the Scotsman, the doctor. What was his name? Beckett?

Though the responding voice was familiar, the words spoken were undecipherable.

“It might be more shock than his system could handle.” The thick brogue seemed more pronounced than he remembered. “But at the same time we can’t give him the kind of care he is going to need. We’re just not equipped as a long term nursing facility.”

Again the doctor was answered by words delivered in a subdued murmur.

“I think a short visit would be alright,” Beckett said, though he sounded reluctant. “He did ask to see you.”

There was a pause, as he waited for his ‘visitor’ to enter the makeshift private room they had arranged for him. To hide him from view, he thought with a touch of wry humor. Not that these people would shrink from him. He seriously doubted they could be shocked by much, particularly something as insignificant as the change in his appearance. He realized now, just how much they had witnessed in the past few months and how badly he had misjudged their resilience, tenacity, and courage. He had arrived with more than his share of bluster, and military ‘I can handle the situation better than you’ attitude, but had quickly learned to respect the civilian complement of Atlantis.

The curtains parted and a tall figure stepped through. There was little space to spare around his bed, yet the younger man seemed determined to hover in the darkest corner, outside the ring of light cast by the lamp over the head of the bed.

“Step closer and sit. My eyes are not that good,” he ordered in a voice that quavered with age, defying his attempt to make it resonate with authority. And I don’t bite, he added to himself, running his tongue over teeth that were no longer seated as firmly as before. Couldn’t if I wanted to’

The younger man stepped closer, but did not sit in the chair beside the bed. Instead he remained rigidly at attention waiting to be addressed.

“I understand that congratulations are in order, Colonel Sheppard.”

“Sir?”

He had caught his visitor off guard. Apparently Sheppard had not expected casual conversation or compliments. In fact he looked like he expected to be thoroughly reprimanded.

“Your promotion to Lt. Colonel.”

John Sheppard nodded. “Thank you, Sir. But I’m sure you didn’t ask me to come here just to pat me on the back.”

Dillon Everett could see defiance and tense anticipation in the younger man’s posture. He could see the exhaustion, as well, in the dark smudges circling his eyes. God knows when the man ate last or had a proper night’s rest. The past several days had been hell on them all. And responsibility for much of what happened, or failed to happen, rested squarely on the shoulders of the young man standing so rigidly next to his bed. Sheppard probably expected to be verbally chastised for ignoring orders and taking matters into his own hands again.

“We didn’t get off to a very good start, young man.”

“We were in a difficult situation.”

A slight smile curving his lips and Everett nodded. That was certainly an understatement. “I arrived with pre-conceived notions about who you were and how you would react to my presence. You could say I had been warned about you.”

The younger man nodded. “Apparently, everyone has been."

Everett sighed studying the young Major, no Lt. Colonel, standing beside him, yet not looking at him. He had made a mistake with this one, pre-judging him based on his own anger instead of getting to know the man for what he was. Not that there had been time for that. He had also been too quick to accuse when he truly did not have all the facts. Facts he now had in a way he never expected. His all too close encounter with the Wraith had sapped most of his life, but had also given him a new perspective on the past actions of Major John Sheppard. Perhaps that was why he had not been killed outright. That didn’t matter. What did matter was that he needed to clear the air with Sheppard while he still had the chance. No one could tell him how long he might live, a matter of days, or, if he was lucky, weeks. He did not want to let this opportunity pass.

“When we talked, in the map room of the Ancient’s, I said we would finish our conversation at a later time.”

“Yes, sir.”

The expression that passed over John Sheppard’s face was one Everett had once hoped to create. Now he regretted that desire. He had been reading faces long enough to know guilt when he saw it; a deep, abiding, soul eating guilt. He suspected John Sheppard spent too much time mentally beating himself up over actions he could not avoid. And to his own shame, Everett had gone to great lengths to rub the man’s nose in what he had seen as a wrong doing on Sheppard’s part.

“I told you then that you couldn’t have known Marshall Sumner as well as I did. That you couldn’t have known what was going through his mind. That you should never have assumed he wanted you to end his life.” Did Sheppard flinch slightly as though his words were bullets? Everett paused a moment before continuing. “Then allow me to say, I was wrong.”

Everett closed his eyes. The image of his personal encounter with the Wraith was suddenly too vivid. He thought he had dealt with the incident and cordoned it off in a safe part of his mind, yet the memory came unbidden. The body that would not stop even when he emptied his weapon into it. The palid skin. The breath that reeked of age. Eyes that bore into his even as its hand tore into his uniform. The searing pain and awful sucking sensation as it drew his life away. This is what Marshall had felt -- draining, debilitating agony. And when rescue had come to late too save Marshall’s life, ending it became an understandable mercy. For that he had accused Sheppard of dereliction, of not rescuing his friend. He had not realized until now that his friend was no longer there to rescue. That only a husk remained. A husk who prayed for death. As he had.

Opening his eyes, he found Sheppard watching him as though willing him to breathe and live.

I was wrong. You did the right thing. You did what Marshall would have wanted. You did what I would have done, Everett thought. “I needed to tell you that I was wrong, Colonel Sheppard,” he repeated. “You did what you needed to do. What Marshall would have wanted. You did what I would have done in your place. I would have given the order and had I been there, I would have carried it out myself.” He stopped talking. He was rambling now, but he needed to convince this young man that there was no need for guilt. He had made the right choice. It was time to stop doubting that. He desperately wanted Sheppard to believe he felt this way.

In the silence that followed, he watched Sheppard’s face. Guilt twisted into anger and Everett wondered if the anger was directed towards him, or the Wraith, or the fate that put Sheppard in this position. Sheppard looked away, then slowly sat in the chair next to the bed, elbows on his knees, his head in his hands

“There isn’t a night that goes by, that that scene doesn’t play out in my head.” Sheppard said, repeating the words he had used in the map room. “And every time it does,” Sheppard paused, then looked into Everett’s eyes, the look on his face was heart wrenching, “...and every time it does, I pull the trigger.” His head sank down into his hands again.

Slowly Everett reached a gnarled hand out, laid it gently on the young man’s tousled head. “I know,” he whispered. I know.

(The End)

 

 

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